Spain’s Supreme Court Sides with Codere in PokerStars Illegal Operations Lawsuit

The Spanish Supreme Court ruled earlier this week in favor of gambling operator Codere in a lawsuit against PokerStars dating back from 2011.

Founded in 1980, Codere is one of Spain’s longest running and largest gambling operators with both land-based and online operations not only across its homeland, but also in different other European and non-European markets.

In 2011, Codere filed a lawsuit against rival PokerStars, arguing that the latter was operating in the then newly regulated Spanish iGaming market without the necessary licenses from Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego, the country’s gambling regulator. Aside from being brought to court, the world’s largest online poker operator also faced heavy criticism for providing its services illegally and competing with its licensed counterparts in an unfair manner.

PokerStars eventually received a license from DGOJ in 2012 and was thus able to offer online poker services in Spain’s regulated market. By that time, complaints over its previous unlicensed activities had already been brought to court.

A Madrid court sided with Codere in 2012, ruling that PokerStars had previously operated illegally in the country. A Barcelona court later on ruled in PokerStars’ favor, arguing that the poker operator had applied for a license and it had not been its fault that it had not been able to obtain it immediately.

Codere was clearly discontent with that particular ruling and eventually filed with Spain’s Supreme Court seeking justice as well as compensation for damages and prejudice. Earlier this week, the country’s highest court determined that PokerStars’ Spanish website was indeed targeting Spanish players without being granted the necessary authorization from the competent regulatory body. In other words, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision made by the Madrid court in 2012 that the online poker operator had run its operations illegally prior to being licensed. However, Codere was not granted the requested compensation.

PokerStars currently holds licenses for the provision of online poker, slots, table games, and sports betting options to Spanish players.

The online poker operator has been trying over the past several years to distance itself from its past of running unlicensed and unauthorized operations in regulated markets or in jurisdictions where online gambling was illegal.

In 2011, PokerStars was among the online poker rooms found to have serviced US players in the years after the implementation of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. The operator was banished shamefully from the country. It has since then tried to maintain a reputation of a brand that avoids black markets in hopes for an opportunity to return to the US.

PokerStars actually relaunched its operations in the country last spring, but to a very limited extent. It went live in New Jersey with Atlantic City’s Resorts Casino and has enjoyed a relatively satisfactory interest in its offering over the past year.

Here it is important to note that online gambling is legal in three US states only, those being Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey. Several other states have been considering the legalization of one form of iGaming or another for the past several years, but without much success. In fact, PokerStars has been among the active supporters of California’s online poker legalization effort, although the poker room’s potential return to the state is not welcomed by different influential parties, including some of California’s federally recognized tribes.

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